The release of Hitman ealier this year was a little bittersweet. On one hand, we had a very impressive Hitman game from a technical standpoint, one that for many fans of the series was a return to form for the franchise. Bigger environments with plenty of sandbox elements, and different ways for Agent 47 to tackle his objectives. Add to that online community created contracts, and there seemed like plenty to do in IO’s latest. The unfortunate part was that this was going to be released episodically. And depending on how deep you wanted to dig into the two levels of the initial launch product, it could feel kind of shallow despite the promise.
Well the promise has begun to be fulfilled with Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza. This episode is a single mission, giving very little story exposition, while at the same time offering a dense new map to explore in a new location, targets to take out, and objectives to fulfill.
Much like the first episode of Hitman, there are a number of ways to tackle your objectives, with numerous alternative missions to accomplish along the way. IO has created some of their best playgrounds in this Hitman game, that is without a doubt. It’s a go anywhere, do anything mission, where you can follow set paths to accomplish you goals or freelance in any number of ways. The Sapienza Mission has you looking to take out two targets — scientists who’ve created a virus that can be encoded with a target’s DNA. Theoretically, this virus can be used as a weapon to spread throughout the world undetected. One of the targets Silvio Caruso believes that the virus can change the global balance of power. Alongside taking out these two scientists, you must infiltrate a laboratory to destroy the virus.
Episode 2 does follow some of the same gameplay design as the first couple of missions. Giving you opportunities to disguise yourself and infiltrate a massive villa compound. Once inside, it’s up to you on how you accomplish your goals. Sapienza is a big mission, which takes careful planning and execution as both scientists are heavily guarded at almost all times. Once the targets are down, 47 must gain access to an underground research center to destroy the virus. There are seemingly endless ways that this mission can play out in its straight forward fashion. That’s the good part about Episode 2. It’s big, it’s dense, it’s more of what was good about the first couple of missions, and its different enough to feel fresh after the month long wait. A single playthrough will take roughly an hour to an hour and a half.
What’s supposed to keep players coming back is the replayability aspects of these Hitman episodes. Unfortunately, there seems to be some connectivity issues that are limiting the experience, at least on the Xbox One version that we played. Assassination, Discovery, Feats, and Target challenges are all currently inaccessible due to the game’s connectivity issues, leaving you with only one option to play the game. Not exactly the best possible circumstance as players who’ve already plunked down their cash for the game can barely access it’s features that give it its most replay value. It’s unfortunate as there are a number of interesting challenges to complete in this mission. Hopefully this is remedied in short order as the episode has only been out for a short while.
When Square Enix announced that Hitman would be episodic I also kind of figured that there would be more story to arrive with each episode, but if Sapienza is any indication, story elements are going to be drip-fed to the player — with a grand total of about two minutes of cut-scene to clue players into what exactly is going on behind the scenes. The star of the show in this Hitman game certainly isn’t the story, and with so little of it, it’s hard to make sense of it all from an over-arching perspective.
While these things are unfortunate, the gameplay is still some of the best we’ve seen from a Hitman game in a long time. Endless possibilities in the gameplay allow for so many different ways to tackle the mission at hand, and there’s something to be said for that type of replayability and randomness of it all. If they can get the online working, this replay value goes up exponentially with more player created challenges, and the aforementioned developer challenges to complete. We’ll update this review if these online issues subside, but at this time the inability to access the majority of the game is definitely holding it back. That said this second episode is starting to show what we should expect in future releases… Great levels, but very little actual explanation or reasoning as to why you’re doing them.
As it stands, Sapienza is a step down from the original release. There’s far less story in this second helping to really keep you engaged for the coming episodes. So little that if you purchased this piece meal, it could be a little off-putting for the remaining episodes. If you’ve already paid up for the full experience, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the developers at this point. Hopefully, they’ll keep delivering the same top-notch gameplay and level design, but add a little more story to the experience to make them truly feel like episodes, because at this point they just feel like levels.
Hitman: Episode 2 Sapienza
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: IO Interactive
- Genre: Stealth
- US Release Date: April 26th, 2016
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "As it stands, Sapienza is a step down from the original release. There's far less story in this second helping to really keep you engaged for the coming episodes. Hopefully, IO will keep delivering the same top-notch gameplay and level design, but add a little more story to the experience to make them truly feel like episodes, because at this point they just feel like levels."